It was Stephen E. Ambrose, the popular World War II historian, who said about the Berlin Airlift, it was "one of the greatest feats of flying in history."  And so it was.  It wasn't just the flying that made it so special, but the dedication and can-do-spirit of your generation of flyers - the generation that I modeled myself after.  Joe Laufer, in my opinion, in 1948 a raw lieutenant pilot, said it best, for me at least. "There wasn't one pilot who thought it wasn't going to work.  Maybe there were some higher up in command who thought we weren't going to cut it, but the pilots thought what they were doing was going to succeed."  And so you did, and I am of course one person who is forever grateful for the great job you did - or for sure I wouldn't be writing this email to you.

But let me just briefly recall how difficult it was to get this great undertaking on the road, an undertaking that changed the course of history.  "January 1948 - Soviet soldiers stopped a British military train en route to Hamburg from Berlin, holding the train for eleven hours.  Soviet harassment of Allied military train traffic became a recurring experience.  February 1948 - The communists staged a coup d'etat in Czechoslovakia, adding that nation to the growing list of Soviet satellites.  March 1948 - Senator Henry Cabot Lodge wrote to General Clay, 'Is it safe for Americans to remain in Berlin?'  Clay optimistically replied, 'I believe American personnel are as secure here as they would be at home.'  Marshal Sokolofsky walked out of the Allied Control Council in Berlin, short-circuiting the council's attempt to formulate quadripartite policy for Germany.  April 1948 - The U.S. Army prepared contingency plans to evacuate Berlin.  On April 2 Army Secretary Royall suggested the evacuation of American dependents from Berlin.  And on April 10, in a teleconference with General Clay, General of the Army Omar N. Bradley expressed his belief that Berlin was untenable and that the United States should withdraw to minimize the loss of prestige.  High level doubt persisted.  In June 1948 Undersecretary of State Robert A. Lovett again mentioned the possibility of withdrawal from Berlin to President Truman.  And in July 1948 Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Materiel, Cornelius V. Whitney told the National Security Council that 'the Air Staff was firmly convinced that the airlift was doomed to failure.'  Lovett continued to dismiss the airlift as unsatisfactory and a temporary expedient, and Secretary Royall predicted its demise that coming winter.  Even General Robertson, General Clay's British counterpart, who had proposed the airlift as an option, suddenly began to doubt its efficacy."
So you see, Joe Laufer was right - "there were some higher up in command who thought we weren't going to cut it."  And he was right again when he continued, "but the pilots thought what they were doing was going to succeed."  And I guess that simple statement, for me at least, embodies the American spirit.  We don't give up easily, even if some of our own experts want to throw in the towel.  Just look at the nine miners who survived an incredible ordeal in the depth of a Pennsylvania coal mine.  Experts doubted they could survive.  Yet, the men down below couldn't hear those doubts and instead bonded together, kept each other alive, and trusted in others to rescue them -just as the Berliners of 1948 put their trust in you.  The nine miners knew there were men up on top who would never give up trying to save their lives.  "We said we got to pull together," to stay alive, one of them said after he had been saved by an incredible team of spirited rescuers.  And pull together they did.  They faced down their own doubts and put their trust in God and their fellow man.  Just barely back on the surface, they are ready to go back down again to mine coal.  In the words of one of the miners - "I've done this for thirty years.  I have a family to feed.  I guess I'm going back down.  A man's got to do what he's got to do."  I believe the American spirit is well and alive, as these nine men and their rescuers have just demonstrated.  The nine Pennsylvania coal miners remind me of the strength of the American spirit.  As long as we have men like those nine miners and like you among us, our nation is in good hands.  We are all a part of a very proud history with a stubborn streak to face down adversity.  In other words, "to do what a man's got to do."  Wolf Samuel, August 2002
Next month I'll recall for you some of the courageous men who said to the doubters, 'Shuks, we havn't yet begun to fight,' or words to that effect.  Or you can read up on it yourself in  I Always Wanted to Fly: America's Cold War Airmen, pp-4-12